How To Launch An App Automatically When You Connect Your Scanner

Let Keyboard Maestro get your Mac ready on cue.

I love my ScanSnap scanner. Pop it open, push the blue button, and the page appears as a PDF on my Desktop.

Most of the time.

If the companion app isn’t running for some reason, it takes about 30 seconds of troubleshooting to diagnose the problem and start scanning. That’s 30 seconds of precious time and brainpower I shouldn’t have to spend. Besides, 30 seconds is a significant percentage of the two-minute rule.

So I did what I like to do and solved the problem so it stays solved: I figured out how to automatically launch ScanSnap Manager when I turn the scanner on.

It’s trivial and I could solve the problem with the tools I already use. The app is ready when I need it and stays out of the way when I don’t. It takes the friction and cognitive overhead to about zero.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Piotr Adamowicz

How to Conquer the Hidden Claims On Your Year

Stake a claim for your time before someone else does.

When the American West was settled, whoever got there first established a claim on the land. It was theirs. They got to say how it was used.

Your time follows this same law of homesteading. Whatever gets put on our calendar first becomes the defacto standard for what we’re “supposed” to be doing with that time.

This is why it’s important to put your priorities on the calendar first. We commonly think of this when we’re scheduling our day or our week, simply because that’s the kind of scheduling we most commonly do.

Scheduling your year can have an even more profound effect.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Drobot Dean

How to Reach Your Goals using OmniFocus

Make sure each one has a clear next action.

Every time you get in the car, you have a destination in mind. You’re going to work. You’re taking the kids to school. You’re going to the grocery store, the library, and the dry cleaner’s.

Even if you’re heading out for the sheer joy of hearing your Maserati purr on the open road, you have a specific destination in mind. You’re heading someplace.

Goals shouldn’t be any more intimidating than popping out for a gallon of milk. More exciting, yes. And they’ll probably take a little more planning than grabbing your keys and wallet and heading out the door.

At some point, you need to switch from thinking about the goal to doing something about it. Here’s how to set up OmniFocus to you moving forward.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / mills21

How to Track Your Goals using Evernote

See your progress and stay excited about changing your life.

There was something I always thought was peculiar about the Franklin Planner form my father would use to help 13-year-old-me set goals.

Right at the top of the page, it asked you an odd question: why do you want to set this goal?

I didn’t want to waste time with touchy-feely stuff like that! I wanted action! I wanted to lay out my grand plan for world domination, break it down, and get to work! Why? Because world domination is awesome!

I wanted to skip the work and let the goal magically happen just because I’d come up with it. You can guess how many times I’ve successfully conquered the world.

Reaching your goals is a process. Once the goal is defined, you’re not done. You still need to track it and follow through on it. Here’s how I track the goals I’m working on with Evernote.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / jummie

How Do You Feel About Your Goals?

Thinking they’re a good idea isn’t enough.

Have you ever set an alarm for 5:00 am, only to hit snooze five or six times?

Or gone with the loaded french fries instead of the salad because, frankly, they taste better?

Or binged three and a half episodes instead of reading a book, cleaning your desk, and writing in your journal?

There are plenty of ways we rationalize why we deviated from our plan in the moment: “It’s cold and dark outside—I might get sick if I go for a run this morning!” “Just once isn’t going to make a difference.” “I left off at a cliffhanger; I need closure so I can think about something else.”

There can be legitimate reasons for changing tactics in the moment. However, if you’re constantly making excuses for not sticking with your plan, it might be a symptom that you’re making a classic mistake: you’re letting your brain make a decision without getting buy-in from your heart.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / stokkete

Should You Use Your Apple Watch in the Shower?

Is “just in case” worth the risk?

When the Apple Watch was first introduced, there was a lot of optimism about the new ways it would enable us to be productive. One of the common questions was whether you would be able to wear it in the shower to talk to Siri.

I understand the question. We can come up with some great ideas in the shower. This might be the only time we have to step back from a problem and think about it, and Siri gives us a way to capture those key insights.

If you really can’t go 10 minutes without talking to Siri, then yes. Yes, you can wear your Apple Watch (series 2 or later) in the shower. With some precautions, you won’t even break it.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Lucian Milasan

How to Find the Problems that are Really Holding You Back

Some inefficiencies waste more of our potential than others.

Energy is the capacity to do work. It’s stored in electrical, chemical, thermal, gravitational, nuclear, or mechanical form and transformed by machines into another form. It’s never a perfect transformation. Some of the potential is lost to inefficiency—friction, heat, vibration, noise, wear.

In a Freshman Physics class, you often model things using a spherical cow of uniform density in a vacuum (they’re also frictionless, inert, of a neutral charge…). You are taught to ignore the inefficiencies so you can focus on the larger principles.

We often make the same simplifications when we plan. That’s not a bad thing, but it does mean that things aren’t going to go as planned. Sound familiar? It happens because your planning model is off.

The simplest way to get more done is to remove the inefficiencies. Let more of that potential be transformed into useful work.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Daxiao Productions

How to Automate Your Workflows on iOS

Let your phone work without waiting for you.

Anything you do on a regular basis (which you can’t eliminate or delegate) can and should be automated. If you have to do it, you may as well make it as easy as possible. (You’ll also waste less time procrastinating and actually do it.)

It’s not even the big things that need automated. Sometimes, it’s the small things—the deaths by a thousand cuts—that we appreciate more.

On macOS, you have AppleScript, a powerful language to create custom workflows and tie apps together. There’s also Automator, an app that lets you create workflows by combining actions with drag-and-drop simplicity—no programming required!

On iOS, there’s the aptly-named Workflow. Like Automator, you create a workflow by dragging together a series of actions. Each action performs a task and passes the result on to the next step.

To be honest, I didn’t really get what Workflow was capable of when I first heard about it. I knew how Automator (and AppleScript) worked, and I knew that wasn’t possible on an iPhone. It only made sense after I downloaded it and started using it.

So let’s create one of the workflows that I use the most: telling my wife I’m on my way home.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / nd3000. I’m sure the photo wasn’t taken while the car was in motion.

How To Triage 3,000 Emails In Just 10 Minutes

Stay on top of email in just minutes a day

Triage started with the battlefield practice of focusing medical treatment on the wounded soldiers who would most benefit from it. Medics would quickly assess the condition of a patient and focus their efforts where they would have the greatest impact.

We send 269 billion email messages per day. The average knowledge worker spends 28% of their time on email. It’s little wonder that getting through your email can feel like you’re shoveling the sidewalk while it’s still snowing.

Even when you eliminate all the email you can, even if it’s actually your job to process email, you still want to get in, get out, and get on with your day.

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Should You Separate Personal and Professional Tasks?

Build a better planner by separating concerns.

Your trusted system needs to cover every aspect of your life. If it can’t handle everything you throw at it, you won’t trust it to handle anything.

Many people will get by just fine with a single system that will track all of their tasks, goals, projects, calendar, and notes. But for a lot of people, having everything in a single system like that can be distracting. For some, it might even be illegal, or at least a bad idea.

Designing your system to keep personal and professional tasks separate can actually give you a better system overall.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / blacksalmon